Enroot | Making a difference in the lives of immigrant students and creating belonging
Enroot is a community-based nonprofit with a mission to empower immigrant youth to achieve academic, career, and personal success through inspiring out-of-school experiences. For the past 26 years, Enroot has directed programming for low-income immigrant high school students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) with program alumni graduating college at more than twice the rate of their peers with demonstrated increases in self-confidence, advocacy, and leadership skills. In 2016 Enroot expanded beyond Cambridge to serve the growing immigrant population at Somerville High School.
By providing wrap-around support that tackles the unique challenges facing low-income immigrant students, we narrow the achievement gap between Enroot students and their native-born peers. We do this by supporting students throughout the process of integrating into their school and community and by partnering closely with school staff and municipal departments in both communities. Enroot also receives financial support and in-kind donations of office and programmatic space from school and city partners, enabling the organization to operate effectively within the fabric of the school community.
Enroot’s progressive program model spans 4-6 years of a student's high school to college trajectory. We recruit students designated as English Language Learners (ELLs) or Formerly Limited English Proficient (FLEP). Complementing school day supports with robust after-school programming greatly accelerates our students’ pace of language acquisition, enabling them to more quickly transition out of academically segregated departments and ensuring they are given access to the resources to succeed. Our program model is designed to serve students with different levels of English language proficiency with activities and supports appropriate to their level (as measured by their school-designated ELL level, with “ELL 1” being the most basic and “ELL 4” being the most advanced). Students who are just beginning to learn English enroll in
the Explore program, which pairs each student with a mentor and provides brief weekly workshops, attended by student and mentor, designed to help students navigate their new community.
Students typically spend one year in the Explore Program before transitioning to the more intense Leadership Program, where students designated as ELL 3 and 4 engage in activities designed to increase access to postsecondary and career opportunities. Students meet once a week for 90 minutes with their mentor and on a separate evening for 90 minutes with their academic tutor. In response to concerns shared by school and district leadership over student performance in mathematics, Enroot is considering adding some group tutoring or ‘math workshop’ opportunities at other times of day for our students.
In the weekly Leadership Seminars, students explore post-secondary pathways and career interests, gain practical professional skills, and become increasingly engaged in the community. Additionally, students attend field trips to local colleges and universities, visit local workplaces, and hear from immigrant leaders in Somerville. Students have an opportunity during their 6-year relationship with Enroot to experience a professional work experience through a paid professional internship at one of our many internship partners.
In addition to the internship experience, this year Enroot piloted job shadow experiences during vacation weeks. During February vacation Enroot students spent half a day shadowing professionals at companies like TripAdvisor, Google, Akamai, and Broad Institute. We are developing similar opportunities for April vacation with Microsoft, Biogen, and other companies in STEM fields.
Navigating high school, post-secondary preparation and college are full of complexities and decisions that bear long term consequences. This is especially true for our English learner students, many of whom will be first-generation students on college campuses. Bob Dumas of Boston25 spent some time interviewing an Enroot alumnus, current students and staff, as well as filming a weekly seminar workshop featuring several community leaders and discussing advocacy. The segment aired three times on April 16 and can be viewed HERE.
All Enroot high school juniors and seniors participate in bi-monthly post-secondary workshops with their mentor to ensure they have the tools and the guidance necessary to make a clear, actionable post-secondary plan. Seniors explore college options, research and apply for financial aid, and plan for the upcoming transition to post-secondary education. Juniors begin preparing for the activities involved in applying to college, such as practicing the SAT’s, visiting local universities, and ensuring their academic performance matches their desired postsecondary path. Enroot brings guest speakers from partner organizations including UAspire, Eastern Bank, as well as Somerville High guidance
counselors to speak on issues like financial aid, budgeting during the first year, writing a strong scholarship essay, and making a sound acceptance decision. We also invite first-generation current college students and Enroot alums to speak to seniors about their experience transitioning to college and finding support on campus.
Enroot's first Annual Career Night: Enroot brought together high school seniors, college students, program alumni, and volunteers to participate in our first ever Enroot Career Night. Each student conducted mock interviews with volunteers or alumni, played career-related games, and exercised their networking muscles. The impact was palpable, and alumni and students can expect more opportunities to connect and collaborate in the upcoming months and years!
Our Vision For The Future Over the last 5 years, we have significantly increased the number of students we serve, from 30 to 175, while also expanding the depth and breadth of our program. We are proud of how many Enroot alumni go on to beat the odds and complete college, but we know we can do even better. That’s why this year we introduced an extension of our high school programming to continue serving students during the pivotal transition through their first two years of college. One of the reasons this specific metric matters so much to Enroot is that research demonstrates that college degree holders enjoy, on average, the lifetime earnings potential of $1 million more than those who don’t complete college. In addition to being a game changer for the financial stability of their families, this increased earning potential could also represent an important economic contribution to the communities in which they work and reside. Enroot’s newly launched College Success Program aims to improve college completion rates for first-generation ELL students by continuing to support Enroot high school graduates during their first two years of college. This takes the form of continued 1-1 support with their mentor and frequent 1-1 coaching from Enroot’s staff. Enroot will also work to identify professional internship opportunities for College Success students at the offices of corporate sponsors. Early results are promising; the pilot cohort of 27 students has 100% retention thus far with 45% of students on the Dean’s list with GPAs of 3.5 or higher.